Exquisitely Made 1,700-year-old Gold Neck Ring Found in Denmark
In October 2021, Dan Christensen, an amateur metal detectorist made the exciting discovery of a remarkably fine gold neck ring weighing a whopping 446 grams (approximately 1 pound). The discovery of a lifetime, the gold neck ring, which was unearthed in a field near Esbjerg on the Jutland Peninsula in mainland Denmark, has been described by the Southwest Jutland Museum as a “masterpiece of almost divine quality.”
Archaeologists believe the necklace dates to around 1,400-1,700 years ago and belongs to the Germanic Iron Age, a period spanning AD 400 to 800 in Northern Europe.
The front view of the gold neck ring found in Esbjerg, Denmark. (Sydvestjyske Museum)
A Magnificently Crafted and Unusual Gold Neck Ring
The gold neck ring is formed of a 93-centimeter (36 inches) long, rod-shaped piece of gold. The circular cross-section is narrowest in the center and thickens towards the ends. It is 21 centimeters (8 inches) at its broadest point, according to the CPH Post.
Describing its exquisite workmanship, a post by Southwest Jutland Museums added that the rod was then bent into a ring shape so that approximately one-third of the thick ends overlap. This overlapping portion is thickly embossed with a crescent-shaped pattern. Each end has a series of flat, gold beads carved into it, whereas, as the rod starts tapering towards the center, the crescent pattern is replaced by a small, neat pattern of furrows and small pistons that form an elongated design.
Detail of the crescent shaped embossing and plaited gold wire frieze. (Sydvestjyske Museum)
At the back, between the overlapping part of the ring, a thin plate has been soldered on. This forms the base for insertion of a beautiful frieze of six thin ribbed gold wires, four of which are plaited together two by two. A seventh spirally twisted gold wire is placed above.
The whole forms an elegant “masterpiece of almost divine quality.” Only ten similar necklaces with stamped pattern have been found in Denmark to date. The latest find is one of the most beautiful, with the soldered plate and the plaited gold wire frieze making it very unusual.
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The back or reverse side of the gold neck ring found in Denmark that was likely a hidden treasure. (Sydvestjyske Museums)
Was the “Almost Divine” Necklace a Divine Offering?
Archaeologists believe that the necklace was deliberately hidden by its owner and not an offering to the gods. Votive offerings in the area were generally made in the wetlands and since there is a wetland nearby, it seems to indicate that the owner’s purpose in burying the necklace was not to placate the gods or win a favor from them.
"When sacrificing items at that time, it usually took place in wetlands and bogs and the like. We know a large wetland existed near the discovery site, so if it was sacrificed to the gods, it would have been located out there instead," said Claus Feveile, curator at the Ribe Viking Museum, to Sputnik News.
Intricate detailing is displayed all over the fine object. (Sydvestjyske Museums)
Feveile also believes that the gold neck ring was never moved after it was buried because it is in mint condition and has retained its shape despite the fact that pure gold is malleable. “The gold is so pure and therefore also so soft that the ring would not have been able to keep its shape as nicely as it has, if it had been moved around with tools. At the same time, the excavation shows that we have found the very hole in which the neck ring was hidden,” he said to Sputnik News.
Why Was Such a Valuable Treasure Hidden?
If it wasn’t a divine offering, what was the purpose of burying something so valuable and beautiful? In 536-40, the Northern Hemisphere was hit by a series of natural disasters, most probably volcanic eruptions, leading to a short-lived period of climatic cooling called the Late Antique Little Ice Age. This led to a flurry of sacrifices to the gods to mitigate the disastrous consequences of this dramatic climate change.
However, most finds of such sacrificial offerings have been made in the wetlands where, once buried, they were never intended to be retrieved because they were meant for the gods to enjoy.
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The Esbjerg necklace, on the other hand, was most likely buried under the owner’s house, a temporary measure to save it from loot when an enemy threatened perhaps. Or maybe it was meant to be retrieved when the owner needed to realize its value in monetary terms. However, this never happened, and it can only be reasoned that some disaster befell the owner and so he or she never returned to reclaim it.
Instead, metal detectorist Dan Christensen found it, centuries after the owner hoped to retrieve it. Maybe the gods are having the last laugh after all!
Top image: The front view of the gold neck ring found in Denmark that was likely a hidden treasure as opposed to a votive offering. Source: Sydvestjyske Museum
By Sahir Pandey
Archaeology News Network. 2022. Ancient golden neck ring 'of almost divine quality' found in Denmark. Available at: https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2022/01/ancient-golden-neck-ring-of-almost.html
CPH Post. 2021. Ancient golden neck ring found in Jutland. Available at: https://cphpost.dk/?p=130253
WordPress. 2021. Necklace from Ilsted. Available at: https://sydvestjyskemuseer.wordpress.com/